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Plans to convert Lanchester building into new Watford Town Community Free School approved
Politicians have restricted the times a new central Watford school can use a path onto the Cassiobury estate to prevent it becoming a drop-off point for driving parents.
Watford Borough Council’s development control committee added the condition onto its approval for work to turn the Lanchester building into a two-forms-of-entry primary school.
The school building is due to take 60 new pupils in September, as well another 60 temporarily from another new school in Ascot Road as that building will not be finished in time.
Tonight’s decision came amid strong opposition from residents on the estate who were unhappy with the travel plans for the new school.
Hundreds of residents had written to the council complaining that the school’s plan to reopen a disused path from the site into Cassiobury Drive would create a dangerous situation as parents drove down the cul-de-sac to drop children off.
Scores of residents packed into Watford Town Hall’s council chamber to hear the debate on the plans.
Tim Hollingsworth, who addressed the committee for Cassiobury residents, said the school’s plans to use the path as the main access were unacceptable and a better plan had to be found.
His concerns found backing from two councillors for the area. Independent councillor Malcolm Meerabux queried whether the plans would create a dangerous situation for the young children being dropped off.
Peter Jeffree, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Park, highlighted that the school was urging parents to walk and cycle while trying to secure parking spaces for most of its staff.
The organisation behind the school, West Herts Community Free Schools Trust, has secured nine spaces on the site and is in negotiations to hire another 35 in The Avenue car park.
Councillor Jeffree said: “I note with interest that they are trying to promote a car-free school while virtually all 45 staff will be able to park. This seems a case of do as I say not as I do.”
Councillors also heard from John Harris from the free schools trust, who said the new school would eventually provide 420 primary places in an area that was facing a severe shortage.
He said Lanchester was an ideal place for the new school as it was already an educational building and would cater mostly for children living under a kilometre away.
At the beginning of the debate, Iain Sharpe, an Oxhey Liberal Democrat, said the council could not refuse the application for the school as it was only an application for amendments to the Lanchester site.
However he said he sympathised with the concerns over Cassiobury Drive becoming a drop-off point and suggested the council limit the times the school could use the path.
Councillor Keith Crout, a Lib Dem for Stanborough, said he felt the main issue was creating a safe drop-off area for the new school children.
He said he lived on the Cassiobury estate and did not feel the extra traffic congestion should rule out using Cassiobury Drive if it created a safer drop-off point.
In the end, Councillor Sharpe proposed a motion to restrict the use of the path to the times when the school was taking pupils to Cassiobury Park for activities.
The motion was voted for by seven of the eight councillors on the committee. Councillor Crout voted against.
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